Premier: “Let’s Embrace Change, Not Fear It”

December 12, 2013

Bermuda Premier Craig Cannonier, December 11 2013-1“If people are to fear anything, they should fear more of the same – standing still while our national position gets to a point where UK intervention becomes a possibility,” Premier Craig Cannonier.

The Premier said that since 2004 we have spent way more than we’ve taken in and we cannot continue to borrow year after to year to cover what we don’t earn. He noted that the Government deficit is expected to be more than $300 million just this year alone.

“The situation is not sustainable,” said Premier Cannonier. “As the elected Government of Bermuda, it is our duty to look out for the safety and security of the people and to bring about change that keeps them out of harm’s way.”

“If people are to fear anything, they should fear more of the same – standing still while our national position gets to a point where UK intervention becomes a possibility. So let’s embrace change, not fear it. There is no future without change.”

The Premier continued, “So, I would urge people to look at SAGE as an opportunity to embrace change for the sake of our future.

‘Because the SAGE Report touches on matters that affect all of us, from pensions to the public purse, I want the consideration of its recommendations to be an open process – the start of a national conversation, and I encourage everyone who is concerned for the country’s future to join the conversation.”

The Premier was speaking at the same press conference as Finance Minister Bob Richards, who discussed the topic of mutualisation, which sees Government services spun off into a separate entity with the staff moving to the new entity as employees and shareholders.

Premier Cannonier’s full statement follows below:

This afternoon I’d like to say a few words about the SAGE Report, the Government’s approach to its findings and the importance of consultation as we move forward with its recommendations.

The work of the SAGE Commission has been one component of our broad plan to renew growth while imposing discipline on the public purse.

Earlier this year, my colleague Finance Minister Bob Richards appointed the Commission to examine government with a view to improving service delivery and increasing efficiency.

This assignment was based on our concerns about trends in government spending when we were in Opposition and on our “under-the-hood” investigations following last December’s election.

The Commissions’ findings confirmed many of our deepest concerns:

  • At the highest level, it said the cost of government and increasing public debt are a threat to the financial foundation of the country.
  • The Commission found major flaws in the structure, performance and leadership of the Civil Service and that a “paradigm shift” was needed if Government is going to meet the needs of Bermudians in the 21st Century.
  • In particular, the Commission found a lack of fiscal discipline that had been ignored for “far too long.”

These are serious findings and the depth of the problems is revealed in the many recommendations the Commission makes.

Before I continue, I want to pick up on an important point made by the Commissioners:

Although they were asked to identify areas where Civil Service performance can be improved, they noted that there were many areas where performance was strong.

After a year as Premier, and working with many good people at different levels of the government, I can vouch for this observation.

Our work going forward is to identify SAGE recommendations for a government that helps restore Bermuda’s competitiveness.

We owe it to ourselves to give fair and open hearing to all its recommendations no matter how challenging they may appear.

Our situation today demands it.

Since 2004, we have spent way more than we’ve taken in and the accumulated deficits have pushed our debt to levels that were unimaginable 10 years ago.

We cannot continue to borrow year after to year to cover what we don’t earn. Just this year alone, the Government deficit is expected to be more than $300 million. The situation is not sustainable.

As the elected Government of Bermuda, it is our duty to look out for the safety and security of the people and to bring about change that keeps them out of harm’s way.

So, I would urge people to look at SAGE as an opportunity to embrace change for the sake of our future.

Because the SAGE Report touches on matters that affect all of us, from pensions to the public purse, I want the consideration of its recommendations to be an open process – the start of a national conversation, and I encourage everyone who is concerned for the country’s future to join the conversation.

Tomorrow we will debate the SAGE Report in the House of Assembly. Consultations will follow with stakeholder groups, civil servants, unions, the Tripartite Committee and the public through town hall meetings.

Already many people and organizations have expressed their views. Many have recognized that we cannot continue on the path we’re on, and many have expressed fear that change will hurt them.

My colleagues and I are fully aware of these fears, but we want to hear from people directly. As Government, we will listen and work to make change work for everyone concerned. There will be big wins out of this, and Mr. Richards is here to today to speak to one approach that has worked extremely well in other jurisdictions.

If people are to fear anything, they should fear more of the same – standing still while our national position gets to a point where UK intervention becomes a possibility. So let’s embrace change, not fear it. There is no future without change.

There are many things in the SAGE Report that the Government views favorably and we look forward to implementing them once consultations have been completed.

We agree, for example, with the recommendation to establish dual leadership of the Civil Service through the Cabinet Secretary and the creation of a new post – Head of Civil Service. We see these appointments as the starting point for implementing recommendations to build a culture of performance and accountability across the Civil Service.

The SAGE findings offer us the opportunity to fix inherited problems; and to make sure we don’t burden our children with our debt.

It is an opportunity to make change work for the common good, and to set the Island on a sustainable path to the future. That’s where we need to go.


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Comments (52)

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  1. Meeeee says:

    “….standing still while our national position gets to a point where UK intervention becomes a possibility…”

    OMG. Doesn’t Premier Cannonier know that the UK Govt has no duty whatsoever to step into Bermuda’s financial affairs? Doesn’t he know that we’d have to go cap-in-hand and beg for UK financial intervention? Who will do that? Will he?

    Bermuda’s Constitutional Order is completely different from that of all the other BDOT’s. Bermuda’s Order was carefully structured so that Bermuda was as independent as it could be. The UK Govt and its Langton Hill representative are only responsible for External Affairs and Internal Security.

    The Bermuda Govt is completely free to enter into any financial arrangements that it wants. No financial arrangement between Bermuda and another entity binds or commits the UK Govt to anything. And with Bermuda’s GDP per capita still over $80,000, why would a UK taxpayer with a lower $27,000 GDP per capita come to bail out a rich Bermudian? Especially when, unlike the Cayman’s, there is not even a Constitutional requirement to do so?

    Where has this cockamamie idea of the UK stepping in come from? Who has just gone full crazy? Or was full hot when they put forward this loony idea?

    • Nuffin but da Truth says:

      The UK Government can take over ANYTIME it wants and dosnt need your permission or anyone else1

      • PUT UP OR SHUT UP says:

        Then if this is so true, tell us Premier why do you need to employ 5 people under your staff and spend so much money $$$$$$?

        With that many minions working under you, wouldn’t you have time to take over a Ministry, like say Transportation and save the pennys we have left from the last 14 years of spending for a rain day.

        You keep playing the same old song, which is starting to sound like a script someone wrote for you. You don’t even sound like a person speaking from the heart. Listen and observe a few of your other Ministers when they speak they sound believable. You told the voters of this island you had a plan in 2012.

        If you can not lead Bermuda from these hard times, then do the honorable thing and step down. I’m pretty sure you have been in office long enough to collect that fat golden pension the other past Premiers are swimming in.

    • Black Soil says:

      Brother Craig is correct. If Bermuda goes bankrupt, Whitehall will take over. How ironic that my brothers in the PLP brought us to this cliff. They should hold their heads in shame!!!!

    • LR says:

      Sadly this clown just likes to talk! Unfortunately he doesn’t have a clue of what he speaks.

      Just like when he was talking about Wall Street Banks, his speechwriters just add in things that sound dramatic so his OBA minions can eat it up, but is just false rhetoric.

      • Hmmm says:

        You are the one wearing the funny hat and appearing in the PLP circus LR.

    • Cleancut says:

      Obviously you are not in talks with the people that the Premier is, He is the Premier of this country, and i am sure this just didn’t just come off the top of his head. The mother country will assist in any way it can and i am positive that relations between Bermuda and the U.K have greatly improved over the last year.

    • swing voter says:

      Ignorance is bliss….did you get your GED yet? please read the BDA constitution and wiki the acronym BOTC….then again let me help you

      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      “The fourteen British Overseas Territories are territories under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United Kingdom”

  2. Kangoocar says:

    Our Premier is absolutely correct!! We need change now!!! I would like to thank him for reminding all Locals of the massive deficits the incompetent plp were running our country with, all for the sake of simply maintaining power!! They obviously did not care one bit for everyday Joe Blow Bermudian and their well being, they only cared for themselves!! SHAMEFUL is the best way to describe the plp incompetence!!!!

    • LR says:

      and the record deficit the OBA created is?

      • Kangoocar says:

        If you are that dense to even have to ask why the OBA is running their own deficit, you are too dense to understand the reason!! I learned along time ago to never argue with idiots as they will only drag you down to their level and win because of experience!!!!

      • Hmmm says:

        You spin it all you like LR, your spin ain’t going to help Bermuda .

      • Concerned says:

        UBP left us well endowed – PLP saw it and those at the time took what they thought was their’s no foresight just big spending for all of the years changing Leaders until EB got the crown and bought us down with the hlep of the cog

    • Lebron says:

      I agree, sadly more public sector cuts are needed, starting with our bloated civil service and police force. Not a nice decision, but redressing the PLP imbalance is necessary. No more jobs for the boys.

  3. Vote for Me says:

    Lets start ‘mutualisation’ with the quangos, including BHB.

    They are already set up as private entities.

    If that works, we can move to other government services.

    Anyone ready to invest!!

  4. Vote for Me says:

    “If people are to fear anything, they should fear more of the same – standing still while our national position gets to a point where UK intervention becomes a possibility,” Premier Craig Cannonier.

    Mr. Premier – do not belie your intelligence.

    There is next to no chance of the UK intervening in our national financial concerns!!

    They may be referred to as the mother country but there are no purse strings attached.

  5. Quite interesting says:

    Embracing change without security is not rational. While there are almost 2000 jobs on the line the best you can say is to embrace it! Well I hope we will be able to embrace the fall out. Specfically the decreased spending, the increase homelessness, the increase burden on social services and the demoralization of the society. If the OBA can create the 2000 that they promised and cut out 2000 as they plan then we can consider embracing change. Now don’t get me wrong, lazy rude government employees need to embrace change for real. Yet we don’t know what the plan would be for these 2000 people who need to embrace the wind of change.

    • jt says:

      Embrace chnage and make the best of it you can, or eat it – spines and all.

  6. somuchless says:

    These unions are gonna rock the boat. I urge the unions for the sake of Bermuda look at the entire picture and our current position and remove the focus that it is only about them. If they contine to think with that mentality they will create further distruction.

    It is bad but if we just come together.

    • realest says:

      If you worked for government, you wouldn’t mind losing your job right? Lets embrace change and forget your quality of life, the mortgage or rent you have to pay and your children.

      • Hmmm says:

        Jobs will be gone anyway…. Alll lose jobs or some? State your preference? It is sad that the PLP created this hungry behemoth of a civil service that they couldn’t afford to feed.

      • Suzie Quattro says:

        Thousands of privately-employed Bermudians lost their jobs due to the incompetence of the PLP government, while public “workers” carried on, with their 14 weeks sick pay, carry forward what you don’t use, 6+ weeks vacation, job for life, “Can’t fire me”, guaranteed pension.

        I have no sympathy at all. None at all. If any government or public employee is not needed, they can lose their job, just like private employees over the past 5 years.

      • swing voter says:

        you’re quality of life was built off my backside, my tax dollars, my contribution to a failed public pension fund…welcome to reality

      • someone says:

        Sooner or later people will lose their jobs, whether it because governments trying to cut back and change Bermuda before it has a downfall or the lose of jobs will be because the government didn’t try to cut spending and the country goes downhill. Personally I’d rather lose of jobs now rather than later.

    • Lebron says:

      Culturally, Bermudians need to reject the unions.

      That whole marxist, fight for your brother ideal is redundant. We are no longer in the 1970s, employers do not as a whole look to beat down the little man, they are largely responsible and fair.

      So unions just make fights out of arguments that aren’t there.

  7. Question says:

    This statement from the Premer is a bit confusing to me. The OBA commissioned the SAGE report – why would I expect them NOT to implement the suggested recommendations? This so called public consultation period is, in fact, a waste of TI e as the intention of the government is clear in the Premier’s statement above. Do not insult my intelligence any further by being disgeniuous – it demeans us both, Premier.


    • frank says:

      let him change get rid of the speech writer and the special adviser
      or step down what a joke
      then he can host a game show on citv

  8. Nuffin but da Truth says:

    it’s well known who put Bermuda in this situation and I and many others would love to see the UK Government take a good long hard look at these people and lay charges where required.

    No,I’m not lying to you and I don’t care what you think!

  9. Consider this says:

    The Premier has advisors that have given him talking points designed to generate fear and anxiety. The notion of Britain stepping in is laughable. Why would they. They have no vested interest in our viability. I think he has resorted to intimidating us into the SAGE recommendations. HE has got to embrace change…change of Premiership. Craig is a great guy but he is being used and often appears defensive and confused! Let Gibbons, RIchards, Dunkley or Fahy just get on with it and do the job. This cosmetic leadership is running thin. We know that Craig is the front face because the notion of a black populace voting in a white national leader in a racist society is not very likely. THe slim margin that the OBA won by was because of the supposed distinction between them and the racist predecessors UBP (richards included). Who (UBP) in effect simply “changed” their clothes. THe people have woken up and are asking what have we done…these people have not really changed!

    • Victor says:

      The PLP lost the 2013 because of the mess they had created, which caused enough who had previously vote PLP to either vote OBA or not vote at all. This PLP propaganda that the UBP was some sort of pariah party is not any sort of excuse for their having taken this country to the point of bankruptcy.

    • JD says:

      Talk about missing the entire point of the article.

      We are spending $300m more than we are earning, and need to make changes. Thats it. We can grow revenue, but that takes time, or cut waste, which you can do tomorrow – and there looks like there’s a lot of waste by the way. This is reality, no one is intimidating or cajoling you into anything, the number is the number.

      I really don’t see how you go from that to a rant about a black populace (which Bermuda is not) voting in a white leader, but hey this is Bermuda and we all have to put up with people like you unfortunately.

    • swing voter says:

      so now that you’ve vented your toilet breath, what do you think of the current deficit and how to fix it….or do you even care

    • someone says:

      the best outcome is if UK steps in if we do nothing, look at the other countries who have nobody to lean on that are small.

  10. Bermuda123 says:

    It would be really novel to see an alternative idea expressed by some of these posts who are criticising SAGE. If you don’t want to reduce spending on the Civil Service and we cannot borrow more debt, give us another idea!

  11. Victor says:

    Unlike his two immediate predecessors, Premier Cannonier has come out and told the truth rather than carry on pretending everything is wonderful. A breath of fresh air compared to the previous dribble.

    • jt says:

      ….the scary part is, I doubt we really know the whole truth.

  12. me says:

    I like the sage commission! If you are productive in gov then you will still have a job! Welcome to the real world!

  13. X man says:

    We all fear change because in may involve uncertainty and degrading of the quality of life -
    Change could be both good and Bad, – which one would you fear the most. – thats some pretty
    scary words by the Premier.

  14. John Does says:

    The sooner painful steps are taken, the less painful they will be. Changes should have been made 5 years ago, but back then nobody wanted to upset anyone. The PLP kept pushing the mess under the carpet so nobody could see it. Now the ostriches have all started to pull their heads out of the sand, and everyone can understand what a mess everything is right now. I don’t see how either the PLP or OBA can fix this one unless very unpopular measures are taken. If the OBA chooses to take them, they will loose the next election, if they don’t take them they will loose the next election. There is no win situation in this big mess.

  15. swing voter says:

    the party is over Bermuda….we can’t keep doing stupid. your prosperity and balanced budgets are a thing of the past. we can’t keep using the credit card just to maintain appearances. The gov’ment is not generating enough tax dollars to maintain Your mortgage, boat, SUV, private school tuition, and 4 trips per year. We can’t afford to go another year without change. A few must suffer to save a nation…cut cut cut now!

    • someone says:

      totally agree, we are living unsustainable and this picture that we’ve painted isn’t real and must be changed for the better of bermuda’s future.

  16. Ex PLP supporter says:

    Carry on the good work OBA,to get Bermuda back to the good times!

  17. bluebird says:

    We are over TAXED and over REGULATED hence the ECCONOMY will continue to decrease/go down as it has been for the last (5)five years.
    Only after the ECCONOMY CRASHES will we be free to Re-build.
    Did anyone notice that NewYork state is advertising start a new Business and you can be “TAX FREE FOR TEN YEARS”
    Completely FREE of TAXISATION.You see there Taxs are too high and Business has left the state therefore less employment. DAH??

    • Kangoocar says:

      Yes I have seen that advertisement by New York !! And I totally agree as always with what you are saying!!!

  18. Victor says:

    Amazing how anybody with an IQ over 105 knows full well the PLP leadership are telling a pack of lies, even if in their heart of hearts they are too proud to admit it.

    • someone says:

      the PLP wasn’t always bad at what they did, in their early days they did great things for Bermuda, we can’t disrespect them. Although right now it is time for OBA to try and fix the mess that they have recently created because times have changed.

  19. ann says:

    Sorry Civil Service,we the tax payers are sick of paying for you, NO real working person that i know of gets six weeks paid Holiday and basically unlimited sick Time! Get rid of unions and go private, if these lazy fools want to go to work like the rest of the world there will be jobs. Maybe if we go private we could finally get the Berlin Wall built in Paget, seriously, major highways get built faster and i am sure better!

    • someone says:

      then what they need to do is put government workers at the same holidays and sick days as private businesses to keep everything fair and taxpayers money actually being used for things other then laziness.

  20. Alvin Williams says:

    Mutualisation is another word for privatization and one more example of the doublespeak of this government. I am reminded of the term of collateral damage; A term invented by the Americans to obscure the disproportionate killing of civilians by the American military during the Vietnam war.
    So-called mutualisation will be used by this anti-Bermudian one term OBA government to hide the fact that it’s wishes to shed government entities and it’s employees and continue a policy of down sizing the standard of living for Bermudian workers and their families in it’s continuing quest to create A Bermuda without the Bemudian.
    If premier Cannonier is concern about British intervention in Bermudian affairs over our fiscal problems; perhaps he should tell the British that they should begin to pay for their own diplomatic presence in our country. Why should we continue to pay for to maintain a colonial archaism to the tune of over one million dollars a year and having government house land that should be put to use in the interests of the Bermudian people; serving no propose but to remind us how much we are paying to maintain a colonial link that only serves to obstruct the natural aspirations of Bermudians in the running of their country. I am speaking of the recent veto of a Bermudian who was in line to assume a top post in Bermuda’s judiciary. So while we hear much of much about a top heavy government and the need to throw government workers and their families out in the street. we hear nothing about some real top heavy waste; the financial burden Bermuda has to bear to pay for the British diplomatic presence in our country.

  21. Cleancut says:

    The PLP has a bigger and a more serious problem than the state of affairs of this country.
    If the OBA are successful in turning this economy around, the chances of the PLP winning any future election will be very slim, so the PLP need to act fast.